SEARCH Provides Written Comments to EEOC Regarding Use of Criminal History Record Information for Employment Screening

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SEARCH has submitted written comments to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in response to an EEOC meeting held July 26, 2011, to examine arrest and conviction records as a hiring barrier. SEARCH staff attended the meeting in Washington, D.C. to gain a better insight into the intentions of the EEOC.

According to an EEOC press release, 'The meeting was part of a series convened by the EEOC to examine the implications of various hiring practices. In addition to laying out the scope of the issue, the meeting was designed to identify and highlight employers' best practices, ways in which arrest and conviction records have been used appropriately, and current legal standards.'

SEARCH, whose Membership includes many Members who have direct responsibility for the criminal history record repository in their state, supports and understands the growing reliance on criminal history records for employment background screening, and has a long history of engagement in establishing policies for the use of criminal history records for employment screening.

In the comment letter, SEARCH offered that these three fundamental principles should apply to employment background screening: (1) that employers use state criminal history records, (2) that those records are searched based on positive identification, and (3) that employers consider the relevance and the suitability of the record information to the position.

The letter demonstrated how existing Federal and State laws and policies surrounding criminal history record information are inconsistent and conflicting when it comes to who should have access to the information, and what information they should have access to. The letter also addressed how vastly different and disparate information is contained in public court records, state repository records, FBI maintained criminal history record information, and vendor created and maintained databases.

In closing, SEARCH made the following recommendations to the EEOC:

  1. Educate employers on the benefits of a state criminal history record repository background check and encourage them to make the state check a fundamental component of any employment determination.
  2. Educate employers on the benefits of fingerprint-based access for criminal record checks and encourage them to access records from systems that use a biometric identifier.
  3. Strongly support employers in developing best practices for determining applicant suitability based on CHRI. In obtaining access, employers should take into account the relevance of the criminal history record to the employment determination.

According to SEARCH Executive Director Ron Hawley, "The use of criminal justice information for noncriminal justice purposes is something that our Members are faced with on a daily basis. The repositories are constantly being challenged by the demands of providing this information to the public as well as meeting their commitment and charge to provide accurate and timely information to the public safety community."

Mr. Hawley added that the Membership Group discussed the impending EEOC meeting at their annual Membership Group meeting held July 19-21, 2011, in St. Louis, Missouri.